On today’s front page, in headline type so large that a legally blind patient taking an eye exam could read it, we share some extremely disconcerting news. It has to do with the risks the country is facing because of its inaction on more than 800 dormant permanent residence (PR) applications.

A Grand Court judge this week granted an applicant access to judicial review to determine whether monetary damages should be awarded because of the three-year delay in the immigration process.

To be more precise, the story to which we refer concerns an expatriate accountant, Bradley Carpenter, who applied for PR in October 2013.

During the time that he and his wife were waiting … waiting … waiting … for their application to be considered, suddenly he found his “permission to continue working” status had been changed to a “visitors” permit (i.e. unable to work). He then did the sensible thing — he lawyered up and filed a legal challenge.

Last week, just four days prior to the court hearing, the government notified him that his PR application had been granted.

Regardless of the coincidental (yeah, right) timing of the approval, Mr. Carpenter pressed on and had his day in court Tuesday, with the legal complaint evolving into not “what” officials had done, but “how long” it took them to do it. Most importantly, Mr. Carpenter’s attorney is asking the court to determine whether Mr. Carpenter can claim monetary damages as a result of the delay.

It seems a perfectly germane question in light of the U.K. Privy Council’s judgment (in regard to a case from Antigua and Barbuda) that taking longer than one year to consider a citizenship application was “likely to be unlawful,” and the fact that Mr. Carpenter’s PR application sat stagnant for three years. The judge thought so, too, and allowed Mr. Carpenter’s suit to advance to a full hearing.

Here is the message the court’s action sends to the 800 or so people on the PR list, more than half of whom have been waiting for longer than the Privy Council’s “one year mark”: Under judicial pressure, the government suddenly approved PR for an applicant, who is now being allowed to seek monetary damages for his time spent in legal limbo.

(For the public treasury, this could quite quickly become quite costly. Although it is totally hypothetical and not in any way related to Mr. Carpenter’s case, say 500 people are granted permanent residence plus $100,000 in legal costs and compensatory damages apiece … That’s $50 million.)

Cayman’s queue of PR applicants is wrapping around the block. The government bouncer has now let one person into the exclusive club. Velvet ropes aren’t going to hold this crowd (some of whom are lawyers) for very long.

Premier McLaughlin and his government created this issue. They own it — and they will not be able to hold off addressing it until after the next election.

Their choices are limited: Will they decide to litigate each of the hundreds of cases, one by one, and (most likely) lose, one by one? Or will they litigate them all in a class-action-style suit, and (most likely) lose them all at once?

Some time ago, Mr. McLaughlin commissioned a study, authored by prominent attorney David Ritch, on the issue but promptly sealed the findings on the basis of “legal privilege.” The Compass is attempting to have the report made public via a Freedom of Information request, which Mr. McLaughlin and his government are resisting.

Putting the “Ritch Report” aside for the moment, we call on Mr. McLaughlin to share with his fellow Caymanians what he and his government intend to do regarding this impending threat not only to Cayman’s reputation — but to our treasury.

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  1. Sometimes clearly I am wondering whether to sing alto or soprano because clearly this PR status thing has to be choired carefully. Some may want to blame the hold up on the PPM government; but I am not going to favor anyone side, I am listening to the people and writing. Just think of it we have that amount of students graduating across the island every year, so how is it possible that we can grant 800 PR residents and our students have no work. I am not against these grants being giving to retirees who will not be taking away jobs from our students and are in position to support themselves; but clearly not to person on a work permit just because they have lived here for seven years and over. Besides that how can I want to take a man to court because he refuses to let me live in his home. This is communism, and the media need to stop fanning this fire to suit their wishes which will continue causing unrest in our island.
    Suggesting that Premier McLaughlin’s government created this? Sorry cannot agree with those comments. The Cayman people created this by speaking out, to which no one listened.

    • While I understand, and agree with your concern about providing careers for our young people, I believe you are not considering the fact that the people requesting permanent residence are people who filled positing many years ago. Apparently there were no Caymanians qualified or willing to fill the positions at the time of original hire. Because the Cayman government offered an opportunity for foreign workers to come here, fill those positions, buy homes, create a life here while strengthening our country’s economy people came, and year after year kept their promise and fulfilled their obligations. Despite common perception these positions are not all high salaried professional positions. Look around at our housekeepers, our waiters, waitresses, bartenders, maintenance people and laborers and you will quickly realize it is foreigners who fill many if not most of those jobs.

      The government promised them permanent status after eight years (a period government chose). The program is that of the government, not of foreign workers. The government should live up to its’ agreement, or change it for future workers. After all, we are all only as good as our word. Regardless of who created this mess, it is up to the people who we elected to service the people of these islands to fix it.

  2. This is exactly what I said (many times in my comments) will happen. Breach of contract is a legal cause of action in which a binding agreement or bargained-for exchange is not honored by one or more of the parties to the contract by non-performance.

  3. But Rodney am I to think that these people came here from no where on a banana boat. Am I to believe that they never had a home back where they came from. Well that is hard to believe.. If I had my home back where I came from I would of course want to work and better myself somewhere else if privileged, but what about my plan to return. I have lived in other countries but I have never fought any of them for residence; I came back home, and all of my children are American Citizens born in USA. Which ever government promise them that after 8 years they would have Cayman Status then I suggest they start explaining to the people why all of this is taking place. I love straight talk, because it makes no falling out.

  4. Well these people have been here at least 11 years, as they couldn’t apply until after 8 and have been waiting 3. II rather suspect that anyone who has been in the workforce that long and can afford the PR application and pass the financial tests associated with it is not denying a Caymanian school leaver a job. What would you rather have – them added to the PR list, or replaced with another expat who may not show the same commitment to the Islands?

  5. This whole sorry mess has been quietly festering away (a bit like Mt Trashmore?) ever since the current Premier introduced rollover nearly a decade ago. It’s also not just about PR but systematic abuse of the whole WP system. How is it that some employees get a WP in a few weeks (I know one case where the process took six days!) while others have to wait on simple renewals for 11 months? Why is it that successful WP applicants are being required to have additional blood tests or re-submit police clearances before an immigration officer simply stamps their passport? And how about all the cases where applicants had to re-submit paperwork because immigration conveniently lost their documents?

    I could go on and on listing examples where the system has been abused but the bottom line is that the handling of ex-pats has been completely dysfunctional for years and it just amazes me it’s taken so long for it to end up in court action. This isn’t about breach of contract or CIG acting in bad faith it’s abuse of public office, which when I last checked was a criminal offence in these islands. Whatever, at the end of the day I’ll repeat the prediction I made a few years ago – this is going to get pretty darn expensive when the damages claims start piling in.

    • The five basic remedies for breach of contract include the following: money damages, restitution, rescission, reformation, and specific performance. A money damage award includes a sum of money that is given as compensation for financial losses caused by a breach of contract.
      So “the damages claims” would arise from the breach of contract. Specifically from non-performance.

  6. Twyla

    I love your candidness..and straight talk…and the black and white of the law is as straight as it gets…albeit a bit boring for those who like a bit of juicy local ‘passa passa’ ( a Jamaican term for scandalous quarrels).

    Here it is…in the straight talk of the law, as it currently stands…and its not too complicated for some….and way too complicated for others…to understand.

    Successive Cayman Islands Governments have been allowed to adjust local immigration laws to suit the needs of Cayman and the current system in place has been there since the 1970s and tweaked periodically over many years but the basic tenet has always been…Caymanians will allow foreigners to visit…and work in the Cayman Islands but the route to legal and permanent residency in the country has always been restricted and limited to certain very specific conditions.

    If the Cayman Islands was an independent country, this would not create a problem but the Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory and subject to some very important international treaties as a part of Great Britain.

    The British immigration law is very simple in its providance for any foreign national to become a permanent resident of the UK and in theory, it should work in basically the same way across the board for all British territories.

    That providance is that after 10 continous years of residence in Great Britain, a person has the right to file for permanent residence in the United Kingdom as long as they have been a productive member of society and have no significant criminal record; they pay their application fees, go through the vetting and interview process and if all is in order, they become permanent residents of the United Kingdom.

    Its that simple; there is no attempt or purpose in place to intentionally deny people the right that the law already allows them or Government attempt to limit the number of PRs that are granted, once the applicant meet the qualifications required.

    And…there lies the crux of the matter…the Cayman Islands, as a BOT, are in violation of British immigration and human rights laws by holding up the processing of these PR applications.

    It will be a highly charged and emotional issue in Cayman if this matter ends up in either a Caymanian or British court and as the matter stands, unless this impasse is broken, that is exactly where it is headed.